Slavery in a Remote but Global Place: the British East India Company and Bencoolen, 1685-1825
Histories of the British East India Company usually ignore the company’s use of slave labor. Records from its factory at Bencoolen in Sumatra provide an opportunity to examine company attitudes and policies toward its chattel work force in greater detail. These sources reveal that the company drew slaves from a global catchment area to satisfy the demand for labor in its far-flung commercial empire, shed light on policies and practices regarding the treatment of company slaves, and illustrate the company’s role in the development of increasingly interconnected free and forced labor trades during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The Bencoolen case study also highlights the need to examine colonial migrant labor systems in the Indian Ocean and maritime Asia worlds in more fully developed contexts.
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